Last June when Becky Waer boarded a crowded flight she took the only seat open next to an obese woman.
"I heard another woman say, ‘I hope she bought two tickets,'" Waer said.
It made Waer angry.
"When a man is overweight it doesn't matter so much," Waer said. "With a woman, it is a cruel world. People just don't realize ..."
Waer is slim now, but she understands what it is like to carry around too many pounds of fat.
Always a chunky girl, she wore size 16 clothes in the fifth grade.
She started Weight Watchers for the first time at age 16.
After many years and just as many diets, her closet grew full of clothing in different sizes to match her weight as it went up and down.
"I never let weight (or blindness in my left eye) stop me from anything I wanted to do," Waer said.
She met her husband, Jack, when she was working as a secretary at the Defense Language Institute in California.
The handsome Army chief warrant officer III swept her off her feet and they were married 12 weeks later on May Day.
"It must have been the uniform," she said.
A child, Deidre, and a move to Arizona followed.
They moved to their log cabin in Strawberry in 1992 so Deidre could attend Payson High School.
Jack and Becky opened an ice cream and gift store in Strawberry and Becky went to work as a special education aide at the Pine Strawberry School, a position she held for four years.
Then an ad appeared in the paper in 2001. Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library in Pine needed a manager.
Only a year of junior college under her belt didn't stop her from asking for the job.
"It's called hands-on experience -- organizing things and keeping them straight -- and your reputation precedes you," she said. "I also love working with children."
Now, if she hears someone say they are bored, that there is nothing to do, she encourages them to volunteer, if not at the library then somewhere else in the community.
"I think what happens when you get older, you are able and want to give back and there are so many things you can do without money," she said.
And that is how you meet people.
The Pine library has 25 volunteers.
The Waers are both active members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
Four years ago, Waer was the first woman the local lodge ever elected president.
And, at 300 pounds, she was the heaviest she had ever been. Food consumed her thoughts when she wasn't working.
"It used to be I could tell you what I ate last week and what I was planning to eat next week," she said.
After a great deal of thought, at age 52, she decided to have gastric bypass surgery.
"I told Jack I was going to do it and he supported me all the way."
Since her surgery on Nov. 23, 2005, Waer has lost 90 pounds in addition to the 30 she lost in the months leading up to the bypass.
Her stomach is smaller and she eats little meals and does not normally drink while eating.
"This surgery is not for everyone," she cautions.
The first year after surgery was "easy" for Waer.
Heading into the second year, she knows it will be tougher for her to stay on track and keep the pounds off.
"Every day is a new day for me and old habits are hard to break," she said.
"I'm glad I wasn't addicted to soda (the carbonation expands the stomach)," she said.
Her personal goal at the moment is to walk two miles a day and keep concentrating on what she has accomplished.
She wishes there was a doctor-monitored support group in the community for those who have had weight loss surgery.
People interested in such a group may contact her at (928) 476-3678.
For her, the surgery was like "being born again."
Shopping malls and department stores filled with racks and aisles of clothing choices she has never had before fill her with anxiety.
"I was used to the women's section with one rack of pants and an aisle of shirts that fit," she said.
Browsing the racks of the Senior Thrift Store in Pine is much more to her liking.
This past December, she filled the trunk of her car with bags of clothes sizes 3X and down and donated them to the thrift store.
About once a month, she takes another bag.
Into the next bag will go an XL leather jacket she planned to wear on her Caribbean cruise.
The jacket is too big.
Waer is flying to New York this weekend to meet the ship.
She is looking forward to seeing how much tail is left on the plane's lap belt.
-- To reach Carol La Valley call 474-5251 ext. 122 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.